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After his recent string of albums under the DTP name, Devin Townsend began writing his newest grand adventure, Epicloud. While his last four albums all presented a distinct sound, Epicloud is a culmination of everything explored prior, plus a little extra thrown in. Devin has been consistently releasing material since 1993, so he’s hard to keep up with. Not in terms that it’s hard to keep up with his flow of material, but more so the fact that he’s eclectic, to say the least. It’s a little odd to imagine that the same man who wrote Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing came out with the ethereal Ghost (albeit fifteen years later, but still a dramatic change nonetheless).
So, as consistent as Devin is, his material is (delightfully) inconsistent and he seems willing to try about anything, showing no signs of slowing down or even growing up. Devin’s childish sense of humour being the target of both praise and heavy criticism, many might be happy to hear that he’s toned down the cheeseburger and fart jokes for time being. That isn’t to say he’s not having a little bit of fun with Epicloud, his eccentric personality is the driving force behind his music, and fun seems to be where he’s at right now. Fans looking for Devy to go back to his angry Strapping Young Lad ways will be profoundly disappointed.
As the album’s title may have already suggested, the music is quite large in scale. It brings forth the signature Devin Townsend sound, but everything is just much more grandeur here. The album even opens with a gospel choir on ‘Effervescent!’ before bridging into ‘True North,’ and finding, to the pleasure of everyone, that Anneke van Giersbergen has returned. This being her second appearance on a Devin Townsend record, the first time her vocals were featured on DTP album Addicted. While this could lead to obvious comparisons between Epicloud and Addicted, the comparison is unfair, the latter of which being much more Metal oriented.
If one thing needs to be said, it’s that Anneke is the yin to Devin’s yang. The best example of the two working in unison is the back and forth vocals on ‘Save Our Now,’ Devin and Anneke contrast and compliment each other perfectly and the vocal duo is quite a thing to behold.
One of the most noteworthy songs on the album is ‘Lucky Animals,’ the first single for the album, if only for the reason it has received a lot of negative feedback. Like most others, I admit I didn’t care for this track at first. The silly and quite catchy chorus caught a lot of fans off guard. The song features a very basic verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure and a simple instrumental performance. When I first heard it in the context of the album, it just seemed to fit incredibly well. The album builds for the first three tracks and then bursts into the head-banging ‘Liberation,’ and I guess that’s why ‘Lucky Animals’ works so well as a part of the four-track-crescendo. Devin shows with these tracks that he’s just here to rock out, and with lyrics like, “The time has come to forget all the bullsh*t and rock,” that’s exactly what he delivers. Hard, solid, fast Rock. But the music isn’t always fast and catchy, Devin makes sure to segue a few songs into slow, monumental ballads (e.g. ‘Where We Belong,’ ‘Divine’ and ‘Hold On.’)
The album features a rerecorded version of ‘Kingdom’ from his Physicist album. The new recording and production has improved greatly since the original. Rather than having his vocals drowned and bogged down in the production like the original, Devin’s falsetto soars over the top and features some of the best vocal work from him on the record. Along with ‘Kingdom,’ the album forays into Metal lightly with ‘Grace’ and ‘More!,’ the latter of which feeling like a b-side from Addicted (not just in title, but in sound). The album closes with the incredibly epic ‘Angel,’ featuring all the sounds explored on the album and finishing the record with a bang, before cutting back to the gospel choir chant found on ‘Effervescent!’
Epicloud is inherently Devin through and through. It isn’t something he’s done before, but then again, it is everything he is in a nutshell. Borrowing elements from everything that made his previous four albums work, this is perhaps his most diverse offering yet. He wasn’t joking with us when he named the album. So strap yourselves in, because it’s epic, and, oh boy, is it loud.